Intentional Discipleship in an Uncertain Season

Originally Posted on July 24, 2020
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Webinar Transcript

– What a season this has been, and I love that disciple-making is not getting swallowed in the conversation of the things. We’ve all heard, the phrases, you know, church is closed. Of course, church is not closed. You have a massive opportunity to make disciples right now. And I want to speak into that from different angles, and as Andy mentioned, I come at this from a really strange angle. And so I do wear a lot of hats, but that hatchery, that holds all of them is making disciples. We just do that in different ways. One of the ways I get to make disciples is by working with leaders across the country as a leadership coach. And so I say, I’m a mountain guide for leaders, for leaders heading up their mountain. And as you guys know, we were on sort of this long ascent, we were moving at a good pace and then suddenly COVID hit and everything changed. And we moved really from this decent pace up a mountain that was snaking up the side of this mountain to kicking in ice steps. And literally just going up this thing with ice axes, that is the level of growth we have right now, which has really been changed or die now for several months. And with that, I know from the leaders that I coach, I know from those that I talk with, friends of mine, people that have been in my backyard over the last few weeks, sharing how they’re really doing, Many of you are exhausted right now. And I just want to say, I know that I see you. I can identify on many of the levels, this level of change and criticism that you were facing, the opportunities that are ahead of you seem exhausting. Even if they seem exciting. The word terrasiding is probably true of what a lot of the leaders are thinking right now. God seems to be doing something new and fresh, but man, I don’t know if I can keep up. I don’t know if I can change at that pace. And so I just wanted to start by acknowledging that there have been massive obstacles to church attendance, but I believe there are massive opportunities for disciple-making. Let me say that again. Massive obstacles for church attendance right now, massive opportunities when it comes to disciple-making. And so when Robert would ask me to share, I said, absolutely. So I’m going to share as a fellow struggler, as one, who’s making disciples right now in my home, in my neighborhood, with our team and with many leaders across the country. I see you, and I know it has been a hard season. Some of you feel like you just are, you have one handout and you are just trying to keep up. You are just trying to survive in this season. And I believe God has something more than just allowing us to survive in this season. I believe God’s doing something fresh and something new through leaders across the country, just like you guys. So thanks for jumping on today. Again, I speak as a fellow struggler. It’s been a really hard season for me, for you, for many other leaders across the country. And yet we’re starting to hear some of the things that God is doing. So if you do get a moment, if you would just type in, be helpful for me and others to see what’s been your biggest obstacle to discipleship in this season. If you could just name one, that could be really helpful as we continue on. So let me set some context for where we’re at right now, where I see we are not only is the culture, not only as churches, but as leaders. The context I believe we are in right now is one that we didn’t plan for. First of all, we did not think we would be here. This is unique. And so we are in uncertain times right now. So probably what we’ve held to be true has gotten smaller. And the things that we have no idea about has gotten larger. There’s a few things I know to be true in this season. Everything else I say, man, I don’t know what God is doing exactly and uniquely. What does this look like across the country? There’s a great danger in comparing ourselves to other pastors, leaders, churches across the country, because what a leader in Phoenix is doing and what a leader in Prattville, Alabama’s doing and what a leader in Des Moines is doing need to be completely different. You have a context, the different ages, different fear levels in your congregation, different opportunities, different level of pain and grieving and mourning, different level of loss, different level of pain. One leader that I coached, feared almost all of her church being laid off in that season. And we began to talk about that. One leader that I coached feared many of his congregants dying because a lot of them were over 70 years old and saying, they’re not going to come back to church for a long time. So I don’t know exactly your context, but I do know that it’s unique and we’ve got to seek the father during this time. And I also know that there is opportunity in this season. This is a moment for intentional discipleship in an uncertain age, in an uncertain season inside of that. So we’re going to talk about that today, but we have to ask this question first. What is our current discipleship context? What is our current discipleship context? I believe this guys, we are in the wilderness. We are in the wilderness. We have gone off paved paths and we are now going through extreme terrain. We are now bushwhacking through really deep forest. We are now coming up on rocks and cliffs, and this is not what we had planned or trained for. But let’s just acknowledge the context we are in is wilderness. Leaders, right now, it is time for us to take off our flip-flops and put on our hiking boots. We are not walking on the paved paths that we once were. If anything about leadership was predictable months ago, March 1st, even, it is not predictable right now. And I’ll explain why I think there’s opportunity. I believe this is a great opportunity in this moment. But one thing that we need to see is we’ve all been forced into change. And you’ve heard the adage before people don’t change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. Let me just say this in a good way. The father is forcing us all to change. If there were things that you were stuck in, you may no longer be stuck in those. If there are things that were broken at your church and programs you didn’t want to do anymore, chances are you’re not even doing that program anymore. And maybe it doesn’t have to come back. If there were leadership patterns you were falling into, well you fell into some new patterns over COVID for good or for ill. If there were things that you were doing too much, chances are you’ve weaned things down and you are doing less. There is beauty in change, but change doesn’t just require change management. I don’t like using that phrase. I call it change leadership, change. And we are all at a rate of change. But here’s one thing to remember is that change equals loss before equals opportunity. Change is loss. Before we can move on to what’s exciting, before we can move on to opportunity, we actually have to grieve the change. I personally lost a lot, right when COVID hit. And I knew that before we could move to the opportunities to train leaders, to expand territory, to do Zoom calls, to do leadership development in a new and unique ways, I had to grieve what we had lost. Change equals loss. You’ve lost some things, I’ve lost some things. Your congregations have lost some things. Your staff has lost some things. And maybe if it just is momentum or clarity, dollars, budgets, opportunities, youth events, camps, get together Sunday morning, being able to see your people, relationship that you currently had cultivated. We have all lost something, and that defines the context of our discipleship in this moment. We have to be intentional about our discipleship in these uncertain times, in this uncertain season, right now. And people are being drawn to change whether we want to or not. So I wanna give you several ways we can disciple through in this moment. Several opportunities we have and the first one is honesty. I can’t encourage you enough disciple through honesty right now. What do I mean by that? I mean telling the truth of what’s actually going on in our lives and in our hearts. I mean, as a pastor, you can get up and say, here’s what I’ve lost. This has been hard for me too. This is what I’m struggling with. This is what I’m unsure about. That will be a gift. I don’t believe our congregations will ever rise above the authenticity level of us as leaders. The authenticity level in our congregation, if you want that to grow, if you want authentic faith in discipleship and life upon life to be done in this season, you are going to have to lead the way. Disciple through honesty. Let me say it a different way, guys, in this season, honesty is currency. Honesty is currency in this season. I could say what’s true is that God is good and God is in control. And God has opportunities for us at Stay Forth Designs. We’re training leaders all across the country, guys. That is true, but you know what the real truth is? We lost a lot. I wondered financially if my family was going to make it a few months ago, I lost great opportunities to travel across the country and be with incredible leaders. Things I was looking forward to with money that paid our family bills after taking a massive faith jump and I doubted God, what are you doing in this? Why, why would this stop? What do I need to do? And I was fearful. And you know what was really freeing to tell people? It was actually to disciple them through saying, I’m afraid right now. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I am choosing to take courage in this moment. No platitudes, no saying this is great, a stay at home order. We’ve been home a long time. We can’t go out to restaurants. We can’t connect with people like we would. That is lying to our people if we don’t truly believe it. We say what is true, of course, yes, God is good. God is doing something in this, but let’s not hide behind platitudes to say, this has ripped through many of the lives in our congregations. There’s been a massive loss of life, massive economic change. Let’s be honest and let’s start there because the authenticity level of your congregation, I believe, will not grow beyond that of their pastor and their pastoral team. We are freeing people to be honest so we can actually invite the living God in. Number one, disciple through honesty. The next one is this, disciple through listening. Everybody seems to be talking at one another on social media right now, but who’s actually listening? I believe leaders in this season who understand the art of asking questions will bring greater disciple-making into their spheres and into their relationships, their families, and their congregations. We can disciple through listening. To ask the questions, to lean in, to be curious, to say, what is God doing in your life through this time? A neighbor of mine that’s not known for his ability to be vulnerable at all, Rick lives across the street from me and I came out several weeks ago and it just said, Rick, how you holding up? I know it’s been a really hard season, tell me. He is more willing to talk than he ever has been before. We’ve all been through this trauma together. We’ve all been through this season together. It’s ripped through different areas of our lives. People are willing to be vulnerable and people are willing to share where they weren’t before. I don’t want to miss this moment. I don’t want to miss this vulnerability. And I believe our disciple-making needs to start with our own honesty, but then listen to other people, shaping and forming questions. And then we can go deeper in. Listening, what does that look like? In the midst of racial upheaval during the season, I have two black kids who are adopted and I talk with my 16 year old daughter a lot about what’s going on in the world. I’ll tell you what, I’ve been doing a lot of listening. I have black friends who are incredible kingdom leaders and pastors across the country. We hosted a podcast series, Right Startup Leadership podcast. It’s just is dear white leaders. And all I do is I ask five questions during that time. And I listen, we listen. God, what are you speaking to us right now, to listen to the father? And I think we’re so busy creating content that we often forget to listen. We are so busy creating content that we forget that God is creating change in us and around us. And we are growing at an incredible rate. Would we listen to the father? Would we listen to our congregation? Would we listened to our friends, our teams and what they’re saying or what they want to say, if we would lean in. I believe we have an incredible opportunity in the season to disciple through discernment. Disciple through discernment. What decisions are we making in the season? Guys, people are paying attention to how we engage on social media. People are paying attention to how we respond, to how will we choose to engage in political conversations, how we choose to live our lives with wisdom or not. What days we take off, how we engage Sabbath, how healthy we stay in the season. I believe people are looking for discernment right now. We have a massive opportunity to disciple through discernment. And I had a chance to jump on as Pastor Robert shared with his congregation last night a little bit, and people love to see, there’s a leader, and they’re at their kitchen table. And I would say if Jimmy Fallon is doing shows from his living room, how much more should we say the world has changed? And people want to see from the heart of our lives, from the heart of our homes, the heart of our families and our relationships, how are we leading with wisdom in practice? How are we seeking God to say, I don’t know how I should lead in the season. I don’t know what the opportunities are. God, would you help me discern? And I believe that wisdom in life, also known as discernment could be an apologetic right now and a powerful one for disciple-making. I believe we have an opportunity to disciple through experimentation. Guys, people have not been this open to experimentation in a long, long time. Limitation always breeds innovation, where there are limits, where there is less, where there are obstacles, we are going to create new things. New businesses have already been created right now as the economy has had limitations. And you hear one side of the story, oh, it’s all falling apart and that’s not true. Oh, this thing is broken. Yes, church attendance face-to-face has been impossible and is now still very hard, very challenging. But there is great opportunity to experiment. How are we being the church in this season? What opportunities do we have? What are we going to try? And here’s the great news guys, everyone’s bar on excellence just got pulled down to this level. As excellence goes down, the ability to experiment goes up. We have a moment, we have a window here where we get to experiment, to try things. And there’s a beautiful apologetic of faith in the midst of this. As Joel talked about last month at the lunch and learn, fear, fear is driving so many of the decisions and how we are thinking right now as a country and as families, as leaders. We need to lean in in faith. And I believe that looks like let’s try stuff. I don’t know if this is going to work, but let’s try it. Let’s try student ministry here on Zoom, As we started to see early on. Let’s try an Instagram live thing. Let’s try a Bible study. Let’s try a prayer group. Let’s try different opportunities that we had never had before. Let’s try discipling through smaller groups of people, different nights of the week, you name it. We could blow up some of the paradigms that are there before. And our world has blown up some of the paradigms that were already there and we get to try things. Would we be people who are risking enough that our people say, they’ve chosen risk over fear? That’s the kind of leader I want to follow in this season. They have chosen to say, let’s give it a shot. The sons of Issachar mentioned in scripture, they knew the times and what they should do, or how they should respond as one paraphrase says. They knew the time, they understand guys, this is a moment in a season we will never get back. Give it a shot, risk. You have massive opportunities to fail and massive opportunities to succeed and go for it. Because even if we fail, even if that thing doesn’t work or works for a moment, it doesn’t continue to work in this next season, we tried it. And we say, we trust the father enough to try. Guys, we have an opportunity to disciple through empowerment. What do I mean by that? Pass the ball, pass the ball. Some of you are so tired from all that you’ve had to lead through, and I understand, I’m in your corner. It has been an exhausting season of the lead. Again, as the bar of excellence has gone down a bit, maybe it’s time to pass the ball to somebody else to preach and teach. And maybe you go on vacation or you just watch that from home and you don’t record the sermon. Maybe it’s time to empower some lay leaders to gather people in their homes. Maybe it’s time to empower some of your elders or that one staff leader that wants to try something. You empower them, you pass the ball to them and say, hey, this is your shot. The summer’s are already a good time for that, and it often happens. What if the summer plus COVD in this season we said, let me just give you a shot. How can you pass the ball to somebody else that maybe previously you wouldn’t have? You get to disciple through that. It’s okay, they’re not going to hit a home run. Maybe look for singles and occasionally doubles. But then to go back to give them some feedback. You’re also shaping the congregation to say, it’s not all about me. I don’t have to communicate every message. Maybe it’s time for you to go on vacation and be away for a week or two. Some of the leaders that I coach have been really encouraged. They’ve taken some time off. They’ve recorded their sermon two weeks in a row and you can, same camera crew, same phone, your computer, whatever you’re recording on. And they take their shirt off. Put another shirt on and record one message, one message right after the next one, get creative. How can you empower people right now? Maybe somebody else could take a role in your congregation and begin calling people and just saying, how are you doing right now? How has this season been hard for you? And could really empower the body of Christ, the priesthood of all believers, to disciple other people in the congregation. How can you disciple through empowerment and through passing the ball to others in this season. Guys, this is big. I believe we have the opportunity to disciple through empathy. If you are a pastor, if you are a shepherd, you have the opportunity to shepherd right now, maybe more than ever. There is great pain right now. Each of us has pain in our lives. We can’t compare pain. Maybe you’ve lost a relative to COVID. Maybe you’ve had a wedding and you had to have 12 people there and do it over Zoom, and you couldn’t have all those grand wedding plans that you had. Maybe you’ve lost your job. Maybe you’ve lost a contract on something. People in your congregation are struggling right now. Maybe they lost their vacation or their trip or their summer, or they feel like they lost their spring because they were helping their kids through school. We have all lost something right now. And I believe the leaders with empathy are and will continue to lead the way through this season. And I want to reframe this. We actually had John Eldridge on our podcast and he said this. He said, we are all going through trauma right now. If we can just recognize that we have been through and are going through trauma, deep anxiety attached to that uncertainty, a curiosity of what’s going on in the future, a deep fear about what’s happening within our country and beyond, guys, people are in trauma. And trauma requires care, not information. If a trauma victim comes to you and they are in trauma, maybe they’re in physical trauma. Maybe they’ve had says, you know, something happened to their body, maybe they’re bleeding out in someway. It’s not to say, well, here are three ways to fix that. Here’s a pamphlet, go home and follow this. Trauma requires care, not information. Now, at some point it requires information. Don’t get me wrong. We’re still going to preach God’s word. The gospel is still central to all of this, but people want to be heard. People want to be listened to. They want to be known. They want to be shepherded. There is pain. And right now, shepherd’s, there is great opportunity. And we can disciple people in trauma by caring for them. And by the way, you are in trauma as well. And that’s a great moment that I get is to actually to be in a coaching session with a leader, a pastor, a nonprofit leader, a business leader, and to care for them in that moment. They’re not looking for six tips, seven ideas. People are looking for care and connection right now. This next one is going to sound counterintuitive, but we have a great opportunity to disciple through limitations. Disciple through limitations. You have new boundaries on your life you didn’t have before. People are watching how we respond to those limitations. I had an opportunity, I was actually walking a mile to come to my office today. Each day I walked to and from work and a guy stopped me early in the morning and he’s actually a cop. And I just had the opportunity to talk with him and say, how are you doing? And so many of these things have come out of empathy and to just listening to him, how are you doing? What are you facing at work? How has it been challenging right now as a cop with the climate in our country? How are you, man? Davey, how are you holding up right now? And also he’s feeling the limitations of this season on his job and on his role and on his family. And in that we get to disciple other people, again limitation breeds innovation, And people are watching how we take the limits that the world has put on us and how we see there are great spiritual and discipleship, disciple-making opportunities in this moment. How are you discipling? Or can you disciple through limitations on your life? The limits of my family couldn’t leave, you know, our yard and our property for several weeks, every night was family night. And I wrote in my journal tonight is family night. And I’m going to be present with my family tonight. And the limitation had incredible opportunity and innovation for how we became a family. We were already a family before this crisis. We are more of a family now exiting this crisis into this great season of uncertainty that continues. How can you disciple through limitation. Guys, God has given us and thrust these gifts upon us, whether we want to receive them or not. Are you going to receive these gifts? God has put them in our lap as disciple makers, as leaders, as shepherds, as moms, as dads, as friends, as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. How might we see honesty as a gift and an opportunity to disciple? Listening as a gift and an opportunity to disciple. Discernment as a gift and an opportunity disciple. Experimentation as a gift and an opportunity to disciple. Empowerment, we pass the ball as a gift and an opportunity to disciple. Empathy as a gift and an opportunity to disciple those God has put underneath our care. And limitations as a gift and an opportunity to make disciples. I had an opportunity to share with my team and say, guys, I’ve just, I gotta be honest with you. We have opportunity, but we’ve had a lot of loss. And from the loss of this last season, I never would have told you that we’d be moving as a team from five leadership administrative coaches to 20 coaches. It’s crazy, that’s not what I saw. But we went through the hard work first of telling the real story. And saying, here we are in the moment, it’s hard. I’m not going to look back two years later and say, oh that was really hard. I’m going to say right now, this is hard, but I believe the grace of God is greater. I believe that gospel is greater. I believe the opportunity to be the church and the people of God right now is greater than any limitation has been put on us. And we have an opportunity to shine. And I fear that we will listen to the media more than we will send to our father. I fear that we will look more to the news that stay at home orders and when we can reenter as church attendance, then we will to seek the whispers of the father for how we can make disciples in this season. How will you use these gifts? And I want to leave you with this. God moves through encounters and God moves through practices. God can pull miracles in those encounters and God can free people from things, and we have massive things that have shaped our lives. And in those moments, those spiritual encounters, we can say, what is God saying in this? When God does something huge, when a pandemic comes to our country, when racial upheaval has come, there are encounters that have changed the moment, have changed our mindset, have changed our perspective, and we get to say, what is God doing? But guess what, we also get to steward this life. And God gives us really practical things to do. God moves through those practices, the things we do every day. What are you doing or what are you avoiding? And I just know this for me, I have rediscovered the art of listening to the father and the art of walking each day. That is a practice that has given me life. And in that life, I’ve found encounters with God, what God is speaking to me. He’s speaking to me this morning as I walk, he’ll speak to me as I walk home this afternoon in what we were doing or what we are avoiding. And there are some things that I did in the last season that I don’t want to do in this next season. I was running too fast. There are some things I want to pause on. Some things I don’t want to go back to. And there’s some new practices I’ve picked up in this season that I do want to continue. And where those encounters and practices meet that football shape in the middle is, I believe, where transformation, that longterm growth can happen. Leaders, don’t forget this, we want our congregations to become the congregations that God has made them into. Don’t forget that God is making you into a new creation. God is making you into a closer disciple in this season. God has shaped you in your journey, your pain, your story, your opportunity. And I believe through that, will shape many more. I want to remind you guys of this. We gotta stay healthy in this season. This leadership conundrum, when we talk about this at Stay Forth Designs, everything we talk about, everything we lead into, we talk about this leadership conundrum, where you pursue impact, and you’ll find unhealth. If you’ll do anything to get impact, then as we’ve seen in the media, you will do anything to get impact. We will violate convictions. We will seemingly lose our soul along the way. But when you pursue health, you’ll find impact. Become the person, the leader, the dad, the mom, the pastor, the friend, God has designed you to be, and health blooms out of that. Guy’s its roots and fruits. And my prayer for you guys as leaders watching today is this, that God would be watering the roots in your lives. And even if the fruit doesn’t come for six or 12 or 24 months from now, I pray this, that God would grow the fruit on your tree that he wants to grow, not the fruit that I want to grow. Will God grow the fruit on your tree that he wants to grow. Guys, I’ve got a gift for you. When I talk about health, I want you to be able to recover a rhythm for your life. Our schedules got blown up around COVID and I hate to say this, but unfortunately I believe many leaders are going to burn out in this season. Many leaders I believe are going to burn out in the season. And so we have this practical tool, it’s called the weekly planning grid. I used it every single week. We normally charge for this, I want to give it to you guys and gals watching as a gift today. So just text RIGHSIDEUP to 66866, and we will deliver that to you. We will email that to you. That is getting a lot of people back on track right now with their schedule, because God moves through our practices, not just through the encounters that he brings to us. And so that’ll be a gift from Stay Forth Designs to you guys. I’m huge fans of what God is doing there in Alabama. I love what he’s doing through you guys, incredible leaders there on the ground. Guys, disciple-making opportunities are ripe, and I want to make sure that we don’t miss this moment.

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